Wednesday, May 30, 2012

recruiting board update

It's that time again.  Recruiting board time.  And with a big junior day weekend coming up, hopefully there are a few names spending their last week in the blue or green sections before their promotion to orange.  I do expect a commitment or two.  No specific name in mind, just, this is the kind of weekend for Things To Happen.

Speaking of orange and blue, another of the former came out of the latter this week.  Not blue as in section, blue as in sky, which rhymes with "who is this guy?"  This guy is Texas cornerback Hipolito Corporan, who surprise-committed to the Hoos this past week, shortly after I said I didn't expect any upcoming commitments until the junior day.  I had seen the name Hipolito Corporan exactly once before: when perusing the offer lists last week or the week before for potential names to be added.  I decided I hadn't read enough about him to add him to the board.  Whoops.

You notice there aren't a ton of defensive backs on this board, because of the glut of them we took last year.  That said, Corporan's commitment isn't going to change the coaches' pursuit of guys like Kirk Garner.  And since this is one of those sight-unseen commitments - Corporan has never been to UVA - the stickiness of this one will naturally be in question until he does take a visit.  Coaches tend to like their odds of swaying such a player; they certainly tried with Demeitre Brim last year.  Brim was solid, but they aren't always.

Anyway, here are this week's changes to the board:

-- Added CB Hipolito Corporan to orange.

-- Added WR Keeon Johnson to yellow.

-- Added CB Priest Willis to red.  Red is typically a section for players to drop into until such time as they commit somewhere else, and I'm not usually in the business of adding players there.  That said, it makes sense here; there's enough out there to connect Willis to UVA at least tenuously, but you should see his damn offer list.

-- Moved LB Larenz Bryant from yellow to green.  We are certainly sitting in the catbird seat, linebacker-wise.  That position is likely to be the strongest in our class; Micah Kiser was a terrific start, and UVA is in great shape with four-star types with long offer lists like Bryant, Doug Randolph, Buddy Brown, and especially Peter Kalambayi.

-- Removed TE Arshad Jackson from yellow.  Committed to Auburn.

-- Removed ATH Reon Dawson from red.  Committed to Illinois.  His drop into the red section was precipitated by a stated interest in staying in B1G country, and he has done exactly that.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

long weekend review

So did I mention I was planning to take Memorial Day off?  I don't think I did.  I took Memorial Day off.  So you know.

The long weekend didn't really produce a whole lot of extra news, though.  I wish it had, it would've meant we had a dog in the fight on Memorial Day in Foxboro, but I'll tell ya, we had a little bit of a flawed team this year and it was nice to see a non-powerhouse team win their first title.  And a deserving one, too, it's the first time since we did it in 2006 that the 1 seed won the championship.

Baseball had a good weekend, though.  We'll brush aside the 17-5 assbeating from Georgia Tech - the eventual ACC champs - and focus on the rest.  A 7-0 shutout of Florida State (who can now officially be characterized as "reeling") was the highlight of the weekend on the diamond, and the tourney draw was the highlight off of it.

The fact that it was Scott Silverstein who started the GT game and Artie Lewicki who shut out FSU has pretty much everyone figuring Lewicki is the #2 starter now.  If not in name, at least in practice.  It's really hard anymore to make an argument that's not the case; Silverstein's inability to go deep into a game is troubling and probably the #1 issue heading into the regional.

At such regional, hosted in Charlottesville for the third year in a row, we'll welcome Oklahoma, Appalachian State, and Army.  This is a tournament of familiar names: Oklahoma is the team that knocked us out of our own super-regional two years ago, and the regional across from us is South Carolina, another team to whom we owe a little payback.

That'll be for later, though.  For now, let's step back and marvel a bit.  Remember what we lost coming out of last season:

-- All of our catchers
-- Starting third baseman
-- Entire starting outfield
-- All four starting pitchers

Not to mention that a promising DH/1B candidate (Ryan Levine) left the team, and poor snakebit Reed Gragnani can't stay healthy.  And this is still one of the top 16 teams in the country.  And P.S. - without having a single player make first-team all-ACC and only three - Keith Werman, Branden Kline, and Justin Thompson - making second team.  That's Coach of the Year stuff right there.  The media gave it to Mike Martin of FSU, but it's a crying shame it didn't go to BOC because this year has been his best coaching job maybe since he got here.  Top 16 in the country.  Soak that in.  And next year is when the cavalry arrives: we got Nathan Kirby (and it's really excellent - even flattering in a way - the level of commitment he's shown to UVA), Josh Sborz - there are some big names prepped to enroll in the fall, all of which we'll profile later in June after such time as the baseball team has finished their season.

Right now the tournament is at hand, and UVA got a really good draw.  Oklahoma will be tough, of course, but there aren't many 2 seeds that roll over easy.  South Carolina - the regional across from us - is the 8 seed.  Theoretically the "worst" of the national seeds.  I know - we ought to be aiming to be a super-regional host.  Again: just being a regional host of any kind is one hell of an accomplishment for this year.  There are beatable teams in front of us.  We don't have any margin for error, and as I look out among the regional hosts I see us as maybe one of the most vulnerable regional 1 seeds.  But we also dodged some of the deadlier 2 seeds - thinking along the lines of a Kentucky, Mississippi State, or UCF.  Anyway, full preview coming on Thursday.  Maybe late Thursday, but Thursday.


-- NATIONAL CHAMPS.  A hearty congratulations to the lady rowers, who defended their national title and ensured UVA brought home a national title of some kind for the third straight year.  The Lady Hoos won the Varsity Eight race - the grand finale, so to speak - to clinch the win in New Jersey.  And by the way, Michigan took second, so that particular sport really is how all national championship contests should go.  We could even switch up the order once in a while, I'd still be happy.

-- Making the rounds on the Googleytubes today is the report that someone's figured out that there are only 11 schools to have made a bowl game, the mens' basketball tournament, and the baseball tournament this season.  The fact I'm even saying this ought to clue you in that UVA is one of 'em.  Texas didn't make the baseball tournament this year, for the first time since 1998, so they're, surprisingly, not.  (And that helps illustrate the razor-thin margin we're on, as well as perhaps ACC baseball superiority - Texas was 30-22, we are 38-17.  Five more losses and you go from hosting a regional to outski.)

Anyway, the 10 other schools.  Some are easy to guess: Florida, Florida State, UNC.  Some are hella surprising: Baylor, Vanderbilt, Purdue, Michigan State, Louisville.  (Missouri and NC State round out the list.)

So yeah: death to ACC detractors, as four of the 11 are ACC schools.  2 Big Ten, 2 SEC, 2 Big 12, 1 Big East - and 4 ACC.  Let it also be noted that only UVA and UNC also made the lacrosse tourney, and if you twist my arm I guess I'll throw in MSU on the same level, for playing in the hockey tournament.  On a related note, I continue to warm up to the idea of inviting Louisville to the ACC if we lose FSU, or end up needing a 16th to balance Notre Dame.

-- Mike Slive has come out against the idea of a plus-one playoff.  This is important.  Mike Slive is the commissioner of the SEC.  The SEC is the conference that just signed an agreement with the Big 12 to play a Rose Bowl-like bowl game, the details of which nobody really knows yet but such lack of details did not stop media know-it-alls from saying HIDE YA WIVES HIDE YA KIDS THEY RAPIN' THE ACC UP IN HERRRRR.  Friggin' Mark Schlabach trolled for hits by tolling the bell for the ACC before it was even reported that FSU was making googly-eyes at the Big 12.  A plus-one - that is, just play the bowls and pick the two best winners - would've essentially meant "whoever wins the Rose Bowl plus whoever wins the SEC-Big 12 thing, y'all two just play another game for the title."  The fact that the SEC is not in favor of that is a bonus for the ACC.  Naturally, the ACC wants conference champions to get invites and the SEC wants to just figure out who the best four teams are, figuring that three of them are likely to be SEC.  The problem is that a four-team playoff only leaves room for four conference champions, so the ACC is kind of stuffed in that case.  Myself, I liked the idea that conference champions would be autobidded if they were in the top six in the BCS standings and in the at-large pool otherwise, but I digress.

The larger point here is that these playoff talks are going to take some very, very unforeseen turns.  We are only getting information a little bit at a time.  Also, conference commissioners are sort of a mini-fraternity, and not likely to gang up on each other in these BCS talks.  The proof is in the fact that the Big East somehow clung to a BCS bowl autobid despite being the only conference without a set-in-stone bowl affiliation and the fact that every fan in the whole world knew what a damn farce it was that they still had that.  But the commissioners were too buddy-buddy to actually kick the Big East out of the money pot.  They still are, so the ACC, despite the funeral marches being played for it, will still have its seat at the table.

It's also worth noting this: the SEC is going to a 6-1-1 scheduling model, which is to say, six divisional games, one cross-division rivalry, and one rotating game.  Which means season ticket holders at, say, Georgia, will get to watch LSU at Sanford Stadium once a decade.  Season ticket holders at, say, Auburn, will get to watch Tennessee at Jordan-Hare once a decade.  Man, fuck this conference expansion crap.

Friday, May 25, 2012

lacrosse postmortem

For the first time in years, the Memorial Day weekend lacrosse festivities won't include UVA.  In fact, it's the first time that any of the players on this team haven't made the trip to the Final Four.  I suppose it's to be expected once in a while, and maybe even healthy.  The truth really is, the flaws in this team became fairly evident over the second half of the season.  Let's bid farewell to a very talented senior class and another lacrosse season with a rum-infused review (yes, I'm drinking, it's Friday, a three-day weekend, and the Sailor Jerry in the liquor cabinet won't drink itself) of what went right....and wrong.

The good

-- Steele StanwickWe'll always have Maryland.  And a Tewaaraton Trophy and a national championship and so on.  I started following UVA lacrosse for actual serious during the 2006 title run, when I discovered you could actually watch the game on TV.  So my qualifications in speaking intelligently about the talents of players before then are awfully limited.  That said, Stanwick is the best UVA lacrosse player I've seen since then.

This blog is approaching its fourth birthday, which means that I've had the pleasure of watching, and chronicling, Stanwick's career from start to finish.  The first time I ever wrote the name "Stanwick" on these pages, here's what I had to say:

With a name like Steele Stanwick, your life is pretty well cut out for you before you even start. Hotshot lacrosse player at a prestigious East Coast school - check (and if he doesn't live up to the potential he's displayed so far, it'll be the greatest waste of a terrific name since Majestic Mapp landed on his knee funny.) ... And by the way, I'm still trying to figure out what rathole his second goal (team's sixth) wormed through before it found the back of the net.

Consider that potential achieved.  As a freshman, Stanwick was overshadowed, as is typical, by the upperclassmen - that year's senior class including Danny Glading and Garrett Billings, outstanding players in their own right.  Stanwick carved himself out a place on the starting attack, though, and displayed an otherworldly ability to fit the ball into tiny places.  That skill morphed into pinpoint passing and shooting at all times, and the ability to score goals nobody else could.  Like while laying on the ground being assaulted by two Maryland defenders.  Or while standing on the goal line-extended, 15 yards from the net, as the goalie came out to double-team.

-- Teamwork goals.  UVA's passing this year was excellent.  Two years ago, and during most of last year, I watched in frustration as UVA's offense was shut down as it devolved into a bunch of individuals trying and failing to dodge a defender.  I described the offensive philosophy as "try a move, fail, pass to someone else to see if he can make a move, fail, pass to someone else to see if he can make a move, fail, repeat."  Passing was only done because you couldn't get around your man this time.

This year, things were a lot more fun to watch, even when we were losing.  This is largely an extension of the Stanwick bullet, because he found Chris Bocklet for more than a few beautiful goals.  Matt White pulled off his share, though, too.  In the past, fewer than half our goals were assisted; this year, that rose to just slightly under two-thirds.  This kind of offense is much more sustainable, much less susceptible to a bad game.  Not totally bulletproof, as we'll see later, but better.

-- Faceoffs.  You did not just say that.  Yes I did.  NO.  YES DAMMIT.  Faceoffs, believe it or not, were a strength for this team sometimes.  And when not a strength, at least not a crippling, soul-rending weakness.  At no time this season - not even during the Princeton game when we actually were getting killed at the X - did I assume that a faceoff would automatically go to the other team.  Big change from previous years.  Ryan Benincasa did good work here, and freshman Mick Parks showed enough for us to believe he'll be a major asset in the future.

-- The SSDMs.  Chris LaPierre is Chris LaPierre.  An automatic clear, and by the way, a damn good defender when his arm isn't hanging from his torso by its tendons.  (A separated shoulder limited him somewhat at the end of the season.)  And I will tell you what else, Bobby Hill is the most-improved player from season's start to season's end.  Hill and LaPierre made a great combo in the second half, and when Shocker had to miss the Penn game, Chris Clements also did a nice job in relief, picking up the short stick that he had to put down two years ago.

-- Midfield shooting.  Opponents learned that if they left the shooting lanes open from the midfield, they'd pay the price in goals allowed.  Colin Briggs has always been a savvy player with sleeper skills, and Ryan Tucker and Rob Emery displayed unstoppable howitzer shots when given "time and room."

-- Rob Fortunato.  Admit it: you thought Fortunato might be up to the task but worried about how he'd handle the rigors of the full time job.  I know you thought this because we were like a hive mind on this one.  Everyone thought this.  Fortunato proved to be even better than Adam Ghitelman in the stopping-of-shots department, and more than one loss was lamented with "Fortunato kept us in it but the offense gave up the ball too much."  An excellent season, and now I know what you're thinking again because the hive mind wishes he was coming back for another year.

The bad

-- One-dimensional offense.  I didn't like the one-dimensional offense of years past that relied too much on the dodging skills of the ballcarrier, and this year's version was better.... but still too stoppable.  This year, we didn't have enough dodgers.  I'll tell you what this team could've used more than anything else: the junior-year version of Shamel Bratton.  There wasn't one single player who could consistently create scoring chances for himself, which allowed defenses to cheat away from the ballcarrier and take away passing lanes instead.

-- Poor off-ball defense.  This year's defense was a little above average, I guess.  Not really a great one.  It wasn't bad one-on-one.  The defensive midfield was a strength in that regard, and I'd say there was only one player on the starting six that couldn't always be trusted one-on-one.  (That'd be Scott McWilliams.)  As a unit, though, the defense too often forgot about enemies away from the play.  All three close-in defenders were guilty of that at times - mostly McWilliams and Harry Prevas, but the defense's leader, Matt Lovejoy, had his moments once in a while too.  Matter of fact, I might even be unfairly criticizing McWilliams's one-on-one defense, because often the reason he got beat was because he was too late getting back to his man when that guy would catch a pass.  This aspect of the game was what kept this good defense from being a very good one.


So what about next year?  UVA will probably be considered the anti-favorite in the ACC - we lose a ton of starters.  The starting LSM, goalie, FOGO, plus one starting D, one starting midfielder, and two starting attack - all seniors.  Matt White and Owen Van Arsdale make two likely starting attackmen, but the third spot is totally up for grabs.  At midfield, you probably have Tucker, Emery, and Mark Cockerton, but Cockerton needs to spend the next four months with his left hand tied behind his back so he can discover his right.  Otherwise he might be overtaken, maybe by Carl Walrath.

Defense is likely set; Matt Lovejoy will probably be replaced by Greg Danseglio, who got a lot of second-string time.  SSDM is way set; you have Shocker and Hill both returning, and Blake Riley, who missed the season, will also be in the rotation.  Riley was coming on strong last year the way Hill did this year, so that position is not to be worried about.  LSM, though, will see someone totally new.  Listed at LSM behind Clements and second-stringer Wyatt Melzer (who saw plenty of time) are Frank Price and Tanner Ottenbreit, neither of whom I ever saw on the field.  Maybe against VMI or something.

Faceoffs are mostly fine, but Parks can't take them all.  Someone will need to step up and be the second man there.  "LaPierre" you might say, but the problem is he loses a lot of his faceoffs because he can't play wing for himself.  And then there's the almighty goalie question, and it'll be a three-horse race between Austin Geisler, Rhody Heller, and incoming freshman Dan Marino.  Geisler was the only one to see any time this season (besides Conor McGee, who isn't a factor) but that won't affect things.  It'll be a three-horse race with no head starts.

Enough questions to make you wonder if 2013 UVA will be 2012 Syracuse.  Fortunately, though, enough talent to take a pretty good stab at avoiding that.  2013 is a long way off, but from here, I think we set the goal like this: 2013 UVA lacrosse should try to be 2012 UVA baseball.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

recruiting board update

Sorry, no sudden commitments this week.  The recruiting board changes are devoid of additions to the orange section of happiness, but changes to that area, I feel, are not far off.  Next weekend - eight or nine short days from now - UVA is hosting another junior day, and I've got a good feeling we'll like the result.  Similar to when Vincent Croce and Marco Jones committed on a junior day two years ago, I think Mike London will get a big one next weekend.  I don't know who.  No, I'm not saying this with a nudge nudge wink wink.  Call it intuition - we'll see if it doesn't fail me.

This week's changes to the board:

-- Moved OG Jack McDonald and DT Maurice Hurst from yellow to blue.  Hurst comes with one very large caveat, however.  His top two is UVA and Michigan, and when UVA is hosting a big junior event the first weekend of June, Hurst won't be there.  He'll be in Ann Arbor instead.  And I think he'll commit to Michigan.  Right now both UVA and U-M fans expect it.  If he goes, like, four or five days and is still on the board, it might be time to get excited.  By my usual rules, even if there's a top two that includes UVA, if I think UVA is clearly #2, that's usually not blue-worthy.  But a secondary purpose of the color scheme is to let you know which names to keep an eye on, and right now Hurst is front and center.

-- Moved WR Zach Bradshaw and DT Tevin Montgomery from yellow to green.

-- Moved LB Marcel Ngachie from green to yellow.  Every site out there is hinting that maybe the coaches aren't going after him as hard as the rest of the board.

-- Removed DT Darius Commissiong from yellow.  Committed to Georgia Tech.

-- Removed ATH Chavas Rawlins from red.  Committed to West Virginia.  Neither are going to make it to the list of biggest misses come February, although Commissiong was a guy the coaches offered very early.

Also added to the board is a lot of stars in the Scout column.  They finally got around to rating a bunch of guys, which is awfully helpful for me.  ESPN is the last holdout, but the actual good news here is now I can get a start on the recruit profiles.  They go chronologically, Brendan Marshall is the first, and he was one that Scout hadn't rated.  Fortuitously, ESPN has, so look for that next week.  And let's hope ESPN gets around to rating all the rest of the list so I don't end up with a pile of 15 backorders (so to speak) staring me in the face, which is what usually happens.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

acc baseball tourney preview

Here we are.  And if you're surprised at that, then you haven't been reading or you very unwisely disagreed with me.  Don't do that.  Where is here?  18 ACC wins (for a record of 18-12) and a four seed in the ACC tourney.  I guess I thought that would be good for a five seed, so technically, they overachieved.  The only difference in that, though, is the order in which we play the 8 and 1 seeds, so whatever.

For the uninitiated, the ACC tournament isn't a typical one.  In order to save pitching staffs and yet include as many teams as feasible, it goes like this: the top eight teams are divided into two round-robin pods, and the winner of each pod plays on Sunday for the title.  Seeds 1, 4, 5, 8 are Pool A and 2, 3, 6, 7 are Pool B.  Borrrriiiing - they missed an opportunity to call them Pool Snuffleupagus and Pool Jiminycricket, but I guess there's a reason I'm not in charge of this stuff. 

Anyway, the format lends itself to being a complete crapshoot; the only time since the advent of this format that the championship game has matched up the #1 seed with the #2 was last year, when your Hoos defeated FSU.  In 2010 it was the #5 FSU over #7 NC State; the year before, you might remember it was UVA winning as the 6th seed.  The 8 seed has made the championship game more than the three seed.

So, being the four seed is no obstacle - though the four seed has never made it to the title game either.  Here are the opponents UVA will face, in order of when we'll face them:

-- #5 Clemson
Thursday, 11 AM

The Hoos swept Clemson way back in March, but none of the games were blowouts (6-3, 5-1, 5-3).  That was way back when Scott Silverstein was pitching Fridays and Branden Kline on Saturdays.  The Tigers finished 16-14 in the regular season, helped along at the end by a series win over slumping Florida State, and otherwise beat who you'd think they should and lost to who you'd think they should.

Branden Kline gets the start for UVA - Brian O'Connor is looking to get off to a strong start.  He'll go against Daniel Gossett, whom the Hoos didn't face at all during the regular season series.  This isn't Clemson's ace, but he's an interesting matchup; Gossett leads his team in strikeouts, but is also the wildest pitcher they have.  He's probably good for a few walks, and will probably hit a batter or two, but is also tough to hit.

-- #8 Georgia Tech
Friday, 11 AM

GT, on the other hand, we have recent experience with.  The eight seed, they got in by one game (and had the tiebreaker) over the other Tech, and finished with a 12-18 record.  The usually fearsome Jackets only won three series all year, two against teams that didn't make the tourney.

The hope here is that they blew their wad today - they used their one good starting pitcher, Buck Farmer, against Florida State, and pulled off the 5-4 win.  (See what I mean about a crapshoot?)  And they used reliever Alex Cruz for three innings, meaning his availability on Friday is questionable.  Cruz held UVA to one run and three hits over 5.2 innings of relief on Sunday a couple weeks ago, and earned the win by pitching into the 10th where the game was lost.

So we don't know who'll start, as neither starter has been announced, but GT's choices aren't very palatable.  It'll probably be either Cole Pitts or Jake Davies, both of whom we knocked out of the box early during the regular season.  For UVA, I'd guess BOC will stick with the regular rotation and go with Silverstein.  If we beat Clemson on Thursday, there's a chance our spot in the title game could be clinched with another win here.  How?  It'd also require Clemson to beat FSU in the game following ours.

-- #1 Florida State
Saturday, 3:00 PM

That clinchy stuff isn't real likely, though.  Usually it comes down to the last game.  This one's a rematch of the most torturous series of the whole season; UVA held leads in all three games and blew all three games, and on national TV, too.  3-0 in the 4th, 3-1 in the 8th, 5-4 in the 8th, and boom; swept.  3-run 8th innings doomed the Hoos.  (We also debuted those ugly battleship-gray uniforms.  I wouldn't mind them if one of our school colors were battleship gray.)

Mike Compton, a 2.96 pitcher, gets the probable start for FSU, and my guess is we'll send Artie Lewicki to the hill.  Compton pitched on Sunday (the second game of the series) against us in the regular season, and we scratched out three runs against him, which was almost enough.

FSU is slumping a little bit - at one point they were 23-2 in conference play, but finished 3-4 and 4-5 overall.  And now, the loss to eight-seeded GT.  Still not to be taken lightly, obviously.  Remember, they have James Ramsey, who is so good that his home runs fix broken windshields, and every time he touches first base a starving Ethiopian child gets a meal.  At least if you believe the ESPN announcers.

Should we make it through the random-number generator that is the round robin, the championship game will be played against one of UNC, NC State, Wake Forest, or Miami, at noon on Sunday.

Monday, May 21, 2012

weekend review, sort of

Advance warning: This is going to be entirely about conference realignment.  Stuff happened over the weekend, so it's fair.  I'll have a postmortem for the lacrosse season later this week.  It's a little bit of an odd week because we're leaving the spring rhythm behind.  We'll hit baseball on Wednesday; the ACC tournament starts then, and for us it starts Thursday, so Wednesday is the perfect day for a preview.  Recruiting board update bumped to Thursday, lacrosse thing on Friday.  Nothing on Tuesday.  Sorry.  Busy.  First day of the sailing season.

So I was a little freaked out yesterday.  A little depressed, too.  I try to be a voice of reason, see, on conference realignment armageddon.  Specifically, ACC-mageddon.  Most of the time this works out pretty well for me.  The Big Ten did not raid the ACC in a bid to gain 16 teams, and neither did the SEC, despite all sorts of panicky reports to that effect.

It's very unnerving, though, when a particular site has a thoroughly well-reasoned argument detailing why Florida State isn't going to the Big 12 period, and you rely on that argument and then a week later they turn around and say "guess what bitches, done deal!" and ohbytheway Clemson too.  That doesn't inspire confidence.  It inspires freakouts.  For a couple hours there, I became exactly what I try to keep others from becoming.  I had visions of needing a Big Ten bailout and a future of games against Illinois and Minnesota, and watching Michigan and Ohio State take turns marching into Scott Stadium and having their way and then watching them march over to Bayside High School and drinking our milkshake there, too.  It wasn't pretty.

Fortunately, I'm off the ledge.  Mostly.  I no longer pooh-pooh the idea of FSU making that leap.  But it's far from "inevitable," too.  For example, there's this report from a media-type out in Tulsa (Dave Sittler) that the Big 12 is divided on the idea.  Well, there's a shocker.  The Big 12 not getting along with each other.  These reports aren't mutually exclusive, by the way.  The FSU source quoted by might well believe the Big 12 acceptance is nothing more than a rubber stamp.

Now, Sittler divides the Big 12 up four ways: four schools "OK with it" (that is, OK with adding FSU and Clemson), four schools that need convincing, and two schools pushing hard in opposite directions.  It'd be helpful to know who's who, and I think we can make a pretty educated stab.  Iowa State doesn't "push."  Heavyweights push.  The Big 12 heavyweights are Oklahoma and Texas.  And from there, it's also easy to guess who's pushing in what direction.  Sittler calls Texas AD DeLoss Dodds "the real Big 12 commish" and he's not wrong.  Dodds is an egomaniac.  OU knows this.  Egomaniacs don't brook any challenge to their power, which FSU represents.  Then you add the fact that OU and FSU have a decent working relationship of late, having completed a home-and-home series.  You get where I'm going with this: Oklahoma wants FSU and Clemson in the Big 12 to help them balance the scales against Texas.  Texas, naturally, does not, preferring to surround themselves with pushovers. 

(And is it not the height of ridiculous irony that FSU cites the overbearing presence of Tobacco Road in the ACC and would solve this problem by fleeing to a conference with Texas?  Sure, at least FSU shares a football focus with Texas, but then again, it's not UNC's ego that started the entire conference realignment mess in the first place.)

So which four teams might also be in favor - that is, on OU's side?  West Virginia is a good start - they'd want to have some fellow Eastern Time Zoners in the league.  Iowa State probably thinks anything that balances Texas is a good thing, considering that it's UT's bullying that chased off most of the northern wing of the conference and cut them off geographically.  I would guess that Oklahoma State reflexively does not agree with Oklahoma, and so the likely other two are Kansas and Kansas State.

That leaves as fence sitters the other three Texas schools (Tech, Baylor, TCU) and Oklahoma State. These are the ones Oklahoma has to convince.  A 5-5 split won't get FSU in the door.  And my guess is it depends on how sick of Texas's shit everyone is.  Texas can probably pull the old "you owe us a big one" on TCU.  OU and OkSt. probably don't get along enough to agree on this.  Remember, OkSt. is feeling their oats at the moment and they want to be the next prime time team in the Big 12, not FSU.  T. Boone Pickens didn't spend all that money Oregonizing his alma mater so that he could throw another FSU-sized roadblock in the way.  Assuming they need a two-thirds vote, which is likely for a momentous thing like this, OU must convince two of the fence-sitters, so if I'm right about TCU and OkSt., they need both of TTU and Baylor.  It might happen.  It very well might not.


What that really leaves us with, though, is the question of what happens to UVA?  Because that's what we give a damn about, right?  Our future lies down one of four paths, and none other:

-- Residence in the Big Ten.
-- Residence in the SEC.
-- Residence in a strong ACC.
-- Residence in a weak, emaciated ACC.

Let's examine them each one by one.  All but case #3 assume FSU and Clemson do depart.  If they don't, obviously the ACC sticks together.

-- The Big Ten.

I have gone on record saying I hate this idea.  I don't remember when that post was and I don't want to dig it up, but the Cliff's Notes go like this:

- We wouldn't be able to recruit well in football because the Big Ten schools like Michigan, OSU, and PSU would get their claws into our state and drain all the talent.
- We wouldn't be able to recruit well in basketball because one of the best things we have going for us is the ACC name.
- We would basically lose our baseball program, because the Big Ten is a baseball mid-major and there's no way we could keep Brian O'Connor around.
- We would be forced to help create a Big Ten lacrosse conference, and you don't come to Virginia so you can play yearly lacrosse games against Penn State and Ohio State.

The basketball is the least of the concerns; the death of the baseball program nauseates me even as I remind myself how unlikely it is the Big Ten would expand.  See, the Big Ten has got themselves to the point where nobody they can realistically add, would add any value.  It's true; the BTN is such a money machine, who can top it?  Unless your name is Notre Dame, you can't.  They're going to be very content to sit at 12 teams unless Notre Dame deigns to allow themselves to be absorbed, and even then they might even be happy with 13.  After all, they were 11 for the longest time.

People like to say they could add Maryland or UVA or even GT and add a relatively large TV market, but - why?  Especially not Maryland - not with the financial state of their athletic department.  And we don't have a very big fanbase, not as compared to the massive colossus-sized schools in the Big Ten.  We would be the second-smallest school, and the third-smallest would be more than twice our size.  And people who say Georgia Tech forget how insistent the Big Ten is on geography.  It's a very old-school conference.  So while some see the Big Ten as a very attractive lifeboat, I don't see it.  If the ACC turns into the Titanic, the Big Ten is the Californian, not the Carpathia.

-- The SEC.

Believe it or not, I think we'd be an attractive option for the SEC.  Keep in mind, they're not big on adding teams in states where they already exist, which rules out GT, Miami, FSU, and Clemson as expansion options (though in our imaginary world where we're examining SEC membership, FSU and Clemson are midwestern Big 12 schools.)

That leaves the schools in NC, VA, and possibly MD.  In the SEC, you have to play good football, so VT would look awfully good to them.  MD is probably out as a geographical outlier and not a very good football team.  Wake is a terrible fit.  Duke plays football only because it's required, and doesn't care about it.  UNC isn't likely to go anywhere without Duke.  That leaves UVA and NC State.  (This is assuming the SEC does want to go to 16, and can't get, like, Oklahoma State.)

Now, NC State has a decent football program, and has been reported to have made eyes at the SEC in the past.  But we have academics going for us, and the SEC is, believe it or not, interested in improving its academic reputation.  Not at the expense of improving its football reputation, of course, but then, we have an up-and-coming football team.  We certainly wouldn't improve the SEC, but we're slowly getting to the point we wouldn't embarrass ourselves, either, and waving the SEC name in front of instate recruits would certainly hurry that process along.  Anyway, if I'm right about this stuff, we wouldn't have to be all that good.  We'd just have to be respectable most of the time and lend our academic reputation to their purposes, like a slightly-better-at-football Vanderbilt.

So I wouldn't exactly scoff at the idea the SEC might have an interest.  No doubt, though, the faculty would find the idea abhorrent.  John Casteen would've pulled out a switchblade and stabbed you if you'd suggested it, and it would've been justifiable homicide in the Charlottesville courts.  Teresa Sullivan is a little more in tune with what athletics can do for a university, but I'm not sure she'd want to take that step, either.

Even so, if forced to choose between the Big Ten and SEC, I would, in fact, swallow hard, try to ignore the greasy reputation of SEC recruiters, and pick the south.  We're a southern school.  I like our baseball team.  I don't think our football team would fare any better in the Big Ten - even though the SEC teams are the titans of the nation, there are balancing factors in play, like being in a talent-rich state which recruits would no longer have to leave if they had SEC stars in their eyes.

-- The ACC, strong.

However, I wouldn't be all that happy in the SEC or Big Ten.  By far the best scenario is an intact, strong ACC with all of its teams.  Or even more than all of its teams, if we can recruit Notre Dame.

-- The ACC, weak.

This encompasses a really wide range of possibilities.  If it's only FSU and Clemson leaving, well, that's survivable.  It's not good, but it's survivable.  I don't think it would force the ACC to replace them.  Not that action wouldn't be required - the conference leadership would need to reinforce the walls and see to it that the rest of the membership is happy.

I'm not a big believer in the domino theory, but I still think it's at least plausible that if FSU and Clemson leave, others will look to as well.  Let's examine a world in which four or even six teams have bolted, and none of them is us.  In that case, the conference derby will be, for all intents and purposes, over, and we will be the losers.  But there would be some steps we could take to avoid being completely Big Eastified.

We'd have to get back up to 12 teams.  Priority one would be Notre Dame; even with such reduced influence we'd have to try.  I think UConn and Louisville would start to look attractive.  Beyond those two, though, anything else is just flailing about.  South Florida and Rutgers would probably also be considered, and the ACC leadership might well go that direction.  I think that'd be a loser move, though; we can't expect to morph into the Big East of 2000 or 2006 and expect it to be sustainable.

No, outside the box thinking would be required, and fast.  And that's where revenge is served: I think the Big 12 would be riper picking grounds for pilfering than it'd seem.  I hate the geographical insanity, of course, but we're talking the direst of situations here, and you gotta do what you gotta do.  If we wanted to try and pillage the Big 12, we'd have to overcome the TV-money gap that drove FSU that direction in the first place.  But we could offer something that some of those teams have been wanting and nobody else has given them: getting the hell away from Texas.  You think, for example, Kansas and K-State would appreciate that chance?  I do.  Oklahoma State might.  Texas Tech might.  Is this making a disgusting mockery of the words "Atlantic Coast"?  Yup.  Is it better than the idea of muddling around in a conference filled with all the Big East teams that nobody else wanted?  Yup.


You'll notice that option five, "being left behind to fend for ourselves while everyone else in the conference gets invites to other parties" is not on the plate.  Let's make believe the 4x16 superconferences model (which is never happening) does happen, and the ACC is not one of them, but most of its 14 teams are.  That would mean four teams going to the Big Ten, two to the SEC, and six to the Big 12.  Even if Notre Dame is one of those teams, UVA is not the 12th-most attractive team of the ACC's 14.  There'd be a home somewhere.

This talk of the superconferences, though, leads us to the final section of this manifesto: mythbusting.  Here are some commonly (or semi-commonly) held beliefs, all of which are crap:

-- Four 16-team superconferences are inevitable.

Small-minded thinking coming from people who like things neat, tidy, and orderly.  I like things neat and orderly, too, but I also like them realistic.  It's the same kind of imagination that produces a promotion-relegation system for college football.  It's cute to pretend, but totally unrealistic.  The problem with the 4x16 model is that it requires a central organizing authority, sort of like how dictatorship governments come up with grand schemes like Mao's Five-Year Plans and force the whole population to comply.  The NCAA is not that authority.  The conferences aren't just going to neatly sort themselves out that way.  People who promote the idea have inane ideas like Fresno State joining the Pac-12, never stopping to ask themselves why the fuck the Pac-12 would do that.  At least two of the proposed superconferences appear perfectly content with the 12 teams they have, with almost literally zero reason to expand.

And even if I'm wrong and there do, at some point in the future, exist four conferences of 16 teams each, we'll just see how long that lasts.  With that many teams you have a lot of disagreement and a lot of clashing perspectives.  Sustainability would be a major issue and it's likely that at least one of those conferences would break up before too long.

-- The UVA president has ties to the Big Ten, making an invite possible if not likely.

Yes, Teresa Sullivan came to us from Michigan, where she spent three-plus years as the provost.  This was after twenty-seven at Texas.  If anything her ties are with the Big 12.

-- The SEC-Big 12 bowl agreement dooms the ACC to a game with the Big East, which in turn dooms us to, uh, doom.

Nowhere is it written that our champion must play the Big East champion.  Or any conference champion.  If the conference leadership is smart, they'll hook up with the SEC's 2nd or 3rd team in the Orange Bowl.

-- UVA and VT are tied at the hip thanks to the VA legislature.

Because of how VT got into the ACC in the first place - essentially, the VA legislature and Mark Warner blackmailed the Board of Visitors with John Casteen's tacit (if not explicit) approval - many are under the impression that now you can't have one without the other.  That was a unique and lucky (for VT) situation.  We were the sixth vote out of nine.  If there had been one other nay vote against VT and in favor of Syracuse instead, there would've been nothing the lawmakers could've done.

Likewise, they have no power over any new conference either VT or UVA might care to join.  They can't force the SEC to take both in the same way they forced the ACC to take VT.  The only way they might is to prevent VT from moving.  (And if the ACC does crumble but UVA and VT find good homes in separate conferences, they won't intervene.)  They can keep someone out of a conference, but this time, they can't force anyone into one.  Besides, there's no guarantee they would.

-- The ACC is finished.

Like I said - it can survive, and probably wouldn't even have to expand, if only two teams leave.  If four teams leave it would still survive.  If there's one thing the Big East has taught us, it's that conferences will do anything to stay around and relevant.  We might very well not like our new position in the pecking order four years from now, and we might now like what teams have joined up, and we might be Big Eastified, but anyone who tells you the ACC will disintegrate and cease to exist is delusional.  And we'll still be stronger than the Big East was, post-2005 - the schools that constitute this conference are not chopped liver.  Whether or not there's a storm ahead, don't panic - things are not as bad as you think.

Friday, May 18, 2012

game preview: Notre Dame

Date/Time: Sunday, May 20; 12:00


Record against the Irish: 5-1

Last meeting: UVA 14, ND 10; 3/13/06; Charlottesville (NCAA tournament 1st round)

Last game: UVA 6, Princeton 5 (5/13); ND 13, Yale 7 (5/13)

Efficiency stats:

Faceoff %:
UVA: 54.4%
ND: 47.7%

Clearing %:
UVA: 90.2% (off.); 87.9% (def.)
ND: 89.0% (off.); 86.9% (def.)

Scoring %:
UVA: 36.1% (off.); 29.5% (def.)
ND: 30.4% (off.); 21.5% (def.)

UVA: 18.20 (8th)
ND: 14.52 (36th)

UVA: 12.74 (10th)
ND: 10.07 (1st)

Princeton gave the Hoos a tough battle on the defensive end last week; perhaps the best thing that could've happened given this week's opponent.  At stake is another trip to the lacrosse Final Four; if the Hoos win this game it'll be their fifth straight bid, but they'll have to get through the best defense in the country to get there.  (And Duke is looking for six in a row.  The last time there was a Final Four with neither Duke nor UVA was 2004, and only '06 and '07 had just one of the two.)

-- UVA on offense

You don't have a great defense without a great goaltender, and Notre Dame's John Kemp is a great goaltender.  A goalie's save percentage is somewhat reliant on the defense in front - the better the defense, the weaker the shots - but Kemp's sky-high .641 save percentage is too good for that kind of caveat.  It's almost forty points better than the next-best in the country.  If college lacrosse had a Vezina Trophy, anyone not voting for Kemp would lose their privileges.

Really, anywhere you look the defensive numbers are staggering.  Last week we played the number two team in the country in defensive scoring percentage; Princeton has allowed just 24.6% of opponent's offensive-zone possessions to become goals.  This week, #1 - Notre Dame's number is an insanely stingy 21.4%.  Think about it like this: if you play a typical game - win 10 faceoffs and clear the ball 15 times, you're only going to score five goals.  For stat nerds, the national average is 33% (8-9 goals in that situation), and Notre Dame is two and a half standard deviations below the mean.  Princeton is roughly one and half - that's how big a gap there is between Notre Dame's defense and the rest of the country.

When needing offensive punch after a game without much, the coaches like to move Matt White from midfield to attack.  It didn't work last week, but I think it ought to be the gameplan this week.  Our offense is very good at what they do, but they don't have too much in the way of a Plan B when Plan A doesn't work.  White is the best dodger on the team, which doesn't have much in the way of dodging skills and therefore must rely on its passing to earn scoring chances.  You've got to do something different when your offense has been a little slow lately and now you're facing the top defensive team in the land - and it's not like that'd be very radical, UVA fans have been wanting White at attack most of the year.

ND's Kevin Randall was chosen as the Big East DPOY, but really, if they didn't pick a Domer for that award people would've raised an eyebrow.  Steele Stanwick had a better defenseman in Princeton's Wiedmaier chasing him around last week.  ND is more of a perfectly-executed system defense than one that has elite man-on-man defenders.  They don't cause a ton of turnovers.  Every one of our four starting poles has more caused turnovers than Randall - this is due partly to Notre Dame's slower pace of play and partly due to the fact that they're often content to start the clear off of Kemp's stick rather than attack the ballcarrier aggressively.  This is good news for UVA, who struggles against big, physical defenses and should, if patient enough, be able to eventually break down a system.

-- UVA on defense

Good news here: ND is actually a below-average offensive team.  14 games in and nobody has 20 goals yet, although that'll probably change on Sunday because leading scorer Sean Rogers is only one goal shy.

Still, the bottom line up front is that if the Hoos put forth the kind of defensive effort they did last week, Notre Dame won't score.  (I don't mean never score, but, you know.)  The Irish don't have the firepower, and their two losses were a direct result of that.  The first was a 3-goal effort against Penn State, and in the second  - the BE tourney loss to St. John's - they allowed the Johnnies to break down their defense early and then couldn't catch up, despite shutting the Johnnies out in the fourth quarter.

Notre Dame also has something on their stat sheet that I tend to consider a bad indicator for an offense: fewer than half their goals are assisted.  There aren't many guys who can create for another player.  The most dangerous guy in this regard is midfielder Jim Marlatt, with 18 goals and 11 assists.  Marlatt also does an excellent job getting the ball on cage when he shoots. 

But nobody on this team is a take-charge type.  The polite way to say that is "balanced," which I'd say if they were more prolific.  In reality, their offensive lineup is made up of reasonably capable players that nobody fears.  Again, part of the reason for the low numbers is their pace of play, but only part - ND's reputation for slowball is actually somewhat overblown.  The national average O-rating is hovering around 15 right now, which means Notre Dame is half a goal below average.

-- Outlook

I think St. John's provided the blueprint here: beat the Irish early, and you can hold them off late.  I also think the reverse is true: if you let Notre Dame take the lead into halftime, they'll almost certainly hold on to it the rest of the game.  So you know what needs to be done here.  Goals will obviously be at a premium, and if we can get them early, so much the better.  As ever, I have a hard time predicting the Hoos to lose, so I won't - but there's going to be a lot of pressure on the offense, and it's also not that hard to envision them falling short.

-- Final score: UVA 7, ND 5

Thursday, May 17, 2012

series preview: Maryland

Date/Time: Thu-Sat, May 17-19; 6:00, 6:00, 1:00

TV: None

Record against the Terps: 104-73-1

Last matchup: UVA 3-0 over Md. (14-1, 4-2, 4-2); 3/25-3/26/11, Charlottesville

Last game: GT 5, UVA 4 (5/13); Md. 7, PSU 3 (5/9)

Last weekend: UVA 2-1 over GT (6-5, 4-2, 4-5); Md. bye

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #19, Maryland unranked
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #23, Maryland unranked
NCBWA: UVA #19, Maryland unranked
Perfect Game: UVA #19, Maryland unranked
Coaches: UVA #19, Maryland unranked
Composite: UVA #18, Maryland unranked

Maryland lineup:

C: Jack Cleary (.292-0-14)
1B: Tim Kiene (.246-6-19)
2B: Kyle Convissar (.281-2-22)
3B: K.J. Hockaday (.297-2-26)
SS: Alfredo Rodriguez (.299-2-33)
LF: Tomo Delp (.258-4-23)
CF: Korey Wacker (.262-0-10)
RF: Jordan Hagel (.311-3-22)
DH: Ryan Holland (.232-1-10)

Lineup notes: Hagel is nominally the right fielder but slides to center when Wacker pitches.  Also used in the outfield are Michael Montville and Matt Bosse, but they're light hitters.  If Montville or Bosse is in left, Delp will play first and Kiene usually DHs.

Pitching probables:

Thursday: RHP Branden Kline (6-3, 3.96, 78 Ks) vs. RHP Brett Harman (6-3, 2.72, 68 Ks)
Friday: LHP Scott Silverstein (2-4, 3.86, 42 Ks) vs. LHP Jimmy Reed (1-3, 2.85, 46 Ks)
Saturday: RHP Artie Lewicki (3-2, 4.10, 37 Ks) vs. RHP David Carroll (4-3, 3.96, 40Ks)

(Maryland listed their Friday and Saturday starters as "TBA" so I'm taking a SWAG here.)

If I would had done been thinking about it, I'd have posted this yesterday, since game 1 of the series is going on right now.  That was dumb.  By the time you read this, it'll almost certainly be over.  Anyway.

I must be one of the more pessimistic people right now.  I'm not yet convinced UVA is a great candidate to host a regional, despite all the bracketologies that say we will.  Maybe I'm jaded by 2009 when the committee cited our "less than stellar" (their words) OOC schedule as their justification for shipping us out to Irvine.  This year we lost, like, way too many games in the OOC schedule.  So I have this semi-rational fear they'll remember that.

A good way to get a step closer to that coveted goal is to sweep a bad but pesky Maryland team.  Maryland started the season hot enough to get ranked, and then fell out with a thud.  But they haven't been the automatic sweep this year that they're supposed to be.  A win over FSU on national TV threw that point into sharp relief.

-- UVA at the plate

And the reason they do that kind of thing is because they have the pitching to make it happen, and the fielding to back it up.  Maryland is actually a pretty solid team with the glove.  Not great, but better than average - none of their players have reached double digits in errors yet, as compared to two on our own team.

The pitching is the same way.  They don't have any one guy that I'd peg as their ace.  Nor that they would peg as their ace, because the rotation has shifted all year, and there's nobody who hasn't made at least a couple relief appearances as well as starts.  But overall, it's pretty good.  Maryland's team ERA is a hair below three at 2.99, good for third in the conference.

Brett Harman started tonight's game, and pitched into the eighth inning.  Telling you he's pretty decent is probably moot therefore, but he's pretty decent.  If I'm right and Maryland starts Jimmy Reed this weekend - as they've done recently - it's an interesting move because he spent most of the year as their closer.  It's probably a way to get a lefty into the rotation, because they don't have a lot of choices in the southpaw department.

David Carroll has an opponent's BA of .275 - and I keep mentioning pitchers' opponents' BA because it seems to be the stat that has the most correlation with our success against them.  Pitchers who are hittable like that, we tend to hit.  Carroll has the most starts of anyone on the Terps' staff, so I expect he'll keep going out there.  Carroll, by the way, is ridiculously huge, standing 6'8", 235.

Out of the bullpen - well, it's hard to know who exactly it'll be if we don't know who's starting.  CF Korey Wacker is also a pitcher and a pretty good one, sporting a 1.88 ERA, although that's going up after tonight because the Hoos are hitting him hard.  (Much like last year, when Wacker pitched in relief and got righteously bombed and took the loss in game 2; righteously, because he had detoured to the mound on the way back to dugout after the previous inning and spiked the ball, a clear violation of baseball etiquette.)  RHP Sander Beck will probably be available, usually a starter (sometimes on weekdays) but the Terps didn't have a weekday game.  Maryland can also bring in righties Michael Boyden or Brady Kirkpatrick, both of whom also have their share of starting experience.

So Maryland rolls pretty deep on the pitching staff.  That said, so did Miami, and the ceiling for the Maryland pitchers is not as high as that of the Canes.  It looks like our traditional 20-run supernova game isn't in the cards this year, as there's little doubt their pitching staff is way, way improved over the past.  But they lack that one real shutdown guy, and if you're hitting that day, you're hitting, and they don't have a fireman to come put it out.

-- UVA in the field

You'll be delighted to know, if you're planning on heading to a game this weekend, that Maryland's still starting Tomo Delp, after it looked like he'd be a bench guy this year.  This is good because Delp has the highly amusing habit of swinging the bat violently over his head like a helicopter between each pitch.  If you don't see this at least once you're missing out.

This is one of the lighter-hitting teams in the league.  With the pitching they have they'd almost definitely be in the ACC tournament if they had even average hitting, but their slugging average of .376 is second-worst in the conference.  The top hitter is outfielder Jordan Hagel, at .311, and a .468 slugging average, both best on the team.

Ultimately the deal is that Maryland has sort of the opposite problem of UVA.  Whereas we tend to have about 11 guys for 9 spots in the lineup, and thus have to juggle, Maryland has like six guys for nine spots in the lineup, and the rest are all equally light-hitting.  So where we often put a guy at DH whose bat is valuable but who doesn't fit anywhere in the field, Maryland DHs a guy because they have to.  While they do have some contact hitters - the infield is solid enough with three respectable hitters, who, unlike the outfield, don't platoon much - there's only one player (senior SS Alfredo Rodriguez) with more than 30 RBIs.  (UVA has five, and three in the 40s.)

So if the Hoo pitchers can avoid issuing free passes - and Maryland's 187 walks are just one more than VT's worst-in-the-league 186 - they should be able to escape most damage.  I emphasize should because at this very moment Justin Thompson is trying to protect a 7-5 lead in the ninth and not having an easy time.  Our pitching staff last year would've mowed this bunch down (and they basically did, allowing five runs all weekend) but if we can put together a full nine innings of good pitching, this year's bunch can do the same.

-- Outlook

If I had written this yesterday I'd have said sweep.  It doesn't look so good from here.  (HA HA screw it never mind some fool just hit into a double play GAME OVER.)  OK, sweep is back on.  Be warned, though, that we wouldn't be the only team to inexplicably lose a game to this team and "only" take a 2-1 series win away from the weekend.  It's not like I'd even be all that disappointed to not get the sweep, because that'd give us the 18 wins I wanted.  However, this is a sweepable team, and now that game 1 is in the books, and I can cheat big-time on the prediction, I think that's what happens.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

recruiting board update

If you've been noticing that posts these past couple weeks have been coming out pretty late, pat yourself on the back for your perceptiveness.  This is because for the past year I've been a grad student, and now I'm a grad student with a job that they expect me to show up for.  So on days when job time is followed directly by class time, you get posted at late.

Anyway enough of that; it's time for the recruiting board again:

-- Moved QB Corwin Cutler from green to orange.  That just happened.  Today.  It's too bad you can't put more than one quarterback on the field at once with all the ones we have now, but if in the next five or six years we ever have bad QB play it certainly won't be for lack of recruiting them.  The staff seems determined not to have all its QB eggs in one basket, a la Peter Lalich, who turned out to be a pretty flimsy basket.

-- Moved TE Arshad Jackson from green to yellow.

-- Moved WR Paul Harris, ATH Chavas Rawlins, and LB Daniel Reid from yellow to red.  Reid is probably going to VT, and after reading the latest Rivals article on him..... I can't honestly say I'm disappointed about that.

-- Removed ATH Trent Corney from orange.  DON'T PANIC.  It is only because I said I would, if and when the school made an official announcement regarding him, and that's what happened.  He's now part of the 2012 class officially.

There's little else to talk about today, and it's late, so I won't; this weekend is a big one, though, and full previews are on the way tomorrow and Friday.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

what if part 2?

About two years ago (can not believe it's been that long) I wrote a post evaluating potential future ACC members should ACC expansion ever come to pass.  Lo and it came to pass these several months ago, and I don't have much of a right to complain because the conference picked two of the top three teams on my list.

I don't think we're done with conference realignment.  The Biggish Eastish is still a glommed-together disaster that's basically doomed to fail.  Especially once the BCS people get done figuring out whatever idiotic plan they come up with and the Biggish Eastish no longer has a magic key to the money chest.  "Autobids" are probably a thing of the past.  The other variable: Notre Dame.  I think for them, conference affiliation is creeping ever closer.  It'll depend at least partly on how they're treated in the BCS and what kind of bowl affiliations they can finagle.  Right now they basically piggyback off of the Biggish Eastish.  But that conference, once its marquee teams are Cincinnati and South Florida, is going to get the shaft like big-time in those affiliations, and Notre Dame may end up looking at the prospect of either making a four-team playoff or having its best bowl opportunity be St. Petersburg.  No sane person would try and predict Notre Dame's future right now, but wait til the BCS agreement is finalized.

The point being: I doubt the ACC is saying to itself how happy it is to be a 14-team league, yes sir, we're all done expanding.  Especially with this latest Florida State scare.  (No, they're not going anywhere.  Especially now that their president came out with a pros-and-cons letter of jumping ship and there were seven cons and four pros and the pros basically read like he was just acknowledging someone else's points and the cons were specific concerns a president would have.)  Even so, you know the ACC recognizes its position is solid, but not quite as solid as the SEC or Big Ten or Pac-12.  I'm guessing the conference is silently keeping the expansion door wide open.  It might not happen for another couple years, but you basically can't convince me this isn't on their minds.

With that in mind, this is the updated version of the expansion wish list.  Keep the above link handy because you'll need it to see the methodology.  It was a little long, so it's easier you just click over for a refresher than rewriting the whole thing.  The cliff notes: I rate the candidates on the following categories:

- academics
- football prowess
- basketball prowess
- quasi-revenue sports prowess
- non-revenue sports prowess
- cachet
- size
- geographical fit
- intangibles

Quasi-revenue sports are the following: baseball, lacrosse, mens' soccer, and womens' basketball.  As with last time, any score 5 or below (except those in size and geography) gets adjusted to zero, because there's a certain level below which everyone asks "why the hell?" and it doesn't matter if that team is bad or really, really bad.  A lot of the scores are the same as they were two years ago, but a lot are different, and those will be annotated.  Syracuse and Pitt, obviously, are removed from this version, as are Marshall and Buffalo for scoring too damn low last time, and finally West Virginia also because they seem to have found a stable (if geographically bizarre) home.  Other schools are added, but read on to find out who.

Central Florida

Academics: 4 (0)
Football: 4 (0) (2010 - 5)
Basketball: 4 (0) (2010 - 3)
Quasi-rev: 5 (0) (2010 - 3)
Non-rev: 6
Cachet: 2 (0)
Size: 10
Geography: 6
Intangibles: none

Totals: 40 unadjusted, 22 unadjusted

A few things have changed for UCF since we last looked at them.  Their baseball team used to be lousy - it's ranked in all the polls this year.  If that looked like sustainable success I'd make their quasi-rev number a six, but they still have no lacrosse team and nothing else worth having.  The basketball team had a good season, but that's all relative - a 6-seed in the NIT isn't something the ACC should be aspiring too.  Nor the Big East, for that matter, because when it comes down to it, this kind of addition is why the Big East is such a laughingstock. 


Academics: 4 (0)
Football: 7 (2010 - 8)
Basketball: 7 (2010 - 6)
Quasi-rev: 2 (0)
Non-rev: 3 (0) (2010 - 4)
Cachet: 6
Size: 8
Geography: 3
Intangibles: Used as an example by the BCS as to why on-campus playoff games are a bad idea.  It was a really stupid reason, but the underlying fact is still there - they're apparently the team people think of when they think "small crowds in small stadium trying to play big-time football."

Totals: 40 unadjusted, 31 adjusted

The Bearcats would still make a pretty good addition basketball-wise, and I think people who think schools exist to only play football and hoops would dig this idea.  Cincy football is in a precarious place, but they sit in some fertile recruiting grounds and would get at least a marginal boost from being in a conference that isn't falling off a cliff.  That said, they're probably not worth reaching into the Midwest and away from the eastern seaboard for, and the school presidents would never allow it.


Academics: 5 (0) (2010 - 7)
Football: 6 (2010 - 7)
Basketball: 10
Quasi-rev: 7 (2010 - 6)
Non-rev: 6 (2010 -7)
Cachet: 8
Size: 7
Geography: 7 (2010 - 6)
Intangibles: Made absolutely, positively no secret at all of their desire to follow Cuse and Pitt to the ACC.  CT politicians are working to try and make it happen.  But would Boston College allow it?

Totals: 56 unadjusted, 51 adjusted

UConn sorta kinda won another national championship since the last time I did this, but they were already at 10 in hoops so there was nowhere to go there.  We knew they were good.  Academics took a beating because that's one of the big reasons UConn didn't make the cut this past fall - their signature sport is performing so badly in the classroom that they're not even allowed in the tournament this year.  Big black eye there.

But geography got nudged upward a smidge because the ACC just added two very northern teams, so the Huskies wouldn't be as much of an outlier now.  This was the team I considered the best fit last time, and they're still at or near the top of the list.

East Carolina

Academics: 2 (0)
Football: 5 (0) (2010 - 7)
Basketball: 2 (0)
Quasi-rev: 2 (0) (2010 - 4)
Non-rev: 3 (0) (2010 - 4)
Cachet: 3 (0)
Size: 7
Geography: 10
Intangibles: none

Totals: 34 unadjusted, 17 adjusted

ECU's baseball team isn't as good as it once was.  Neither is its football team.  That leaves them with only two appealing factors: size and location.  So yeah - no.  One nice thing about the realignment shenanigans of the past few years is that people have gotten more educated on how this works, and thus you never see anyone suggest the ACC will add ECU anymore.


Academics: 4 (0)
Football: 6 (2010 - 5)
Basketball: 8 (2010 - 9)
Quasi-rev: 7
Non-rev: 7
Cachet: 6
Size: 6
Geography: 3
Intangibles: I guess Rick Pitino is kind of one.  Also, would be funny if they bolted the Big East without ever playing a season against future member Memphis after Pitino was telling them ADD MEMPHIS NOW DAMMIT for the past year.

Totals: 47 unadjusted, 43 adjusted

Louisville kind of impresses me.  They shouldn't be better than, say, Cincinnati, in anything - they play second fiddle in the state to UK (and wouldn't like hearing that, but it's true) and play football in a train-wreck conference, yet they've parlayed a relative lack of resources into things like a 34th-place finish in last year's Director's Cup.  That's above about half the ACC, including the ones who aren't here yet.  If the ACC expands westward to add a certain team in northern Indiana, my personal qualms with adding Louisville (such as their less-impressive academics) start to break down.  If not, they're not worth reaching for.  They'll probably be in the Big 12 sooner rather than later, though, if the Big 12 decides to hand out more invites.  They've made no secret of their desire to join.


Academics: 5 (0)
Football: 2 (0)
Basketball: 4 (0)
Quasi-rev: 6
Non-rev: 2 (0)
Cachet: 4 (0)
Size: 7
Geographical fit: 4
Intangibles: none

Totals: 34 unadjusted, 17 adjusted

It's kind of bad when the best thing you'd bring to the conference is lacrosse - and even that is mainly on the strength of this year's undefeated regular season, which definitely would not have been so against an ACC schedule.  UMass is an idea that sounds like a good one, until you dig a little deeper.  Their football team will be I-A this year, and playing in the MAC, because nothing says "Mid-America" like Massachusetts.  This is a school that I actually wish looked a little better, but they don't.

By the way: I had plans to include ODU in this list, but this has convinced me not to.


Academics: 9
Football: 6
Basketball: 2 (0)
Quasi-rev: 4 (0) (2010 - 6)
Non-rev: 5 (0) (2010 - 6)
Cachet: 8
Size: 2
Geographical fit: 9
Intangibles: Army-Navy game

Totals: 45 unadjusted, 34 adjusted

I scoffed at the idea of Navy joining a conference, and then they went and joined the Big East.  Well, I think I wasn't exactly wrong - the reason I figured they never would is because they would lose the ability to schedule their way to bowl eligibility.  But they're slated to join the Big East in 2015, and how hard could it be to earn bowl eligibility in that conference as it'll be constituted then?

They still would have a damn rough time in the ACC, though.  And their basketball, baseball, and lacrosse teams might never win a game again.  They have a hard enough time in the Patriot League, where they fit like a glove, by the way.  Besides, the 2015 start date is a little weird - it's probably so they can wind down some of their other contracted football series, but it also gives them time to reconsider, and time for the Big East to further disintegrate.  Still, I don't see the USNA ever joining the ACC even if they were willing to give up independence for the Big East.

Notre Dame

Academics: 10
Football: 7
Basketball: 7 
Quasi-rev: 9
Non-rev: 8
Cachet: 10+++
Size: 6
Geography: 2
Intangibles: Particularly passionate alumni base that tends to think that when the sun shone out of the crack of God's ass on the seventh day, it created the golden dome.  In other words they'll fit right in with Duke, which thinks the same about Mike Krzyzewski.

Totals: 59 unadjusted, 59 adjusted

Hoo boy.  First of all, is it weird that football is almost lower than basketball here, and that it is lower than both their quasi-rev and non-rev sports?  Yes, very, and it doesn't matter.  Notre Dame's presence in the league could mean an extra $5 million per team from the TV deal alone.  They'd be that big.  If they decide to join a conference, they'll have the Big Ten, Big 12, and ACC all lining up at their door, all with attractive sales pitches.  The Big 12 would probably give them the same deal as they have now in the Big East, which would let them continue to have their independence cake and eat it too.  The Big Ten would let them continue current rivalries, lower their travel costs, makes geographical sense, and offers the biggest money pile thanks to the BTN.  The ACC is the best cultural and academic fit.

So it would depend on what's important to the decision-makers.  If they were a normal school, they'd follow the money and pick the Big Ten.  But they are not a normal school.  They have weird thought patterns sometimes.  It's possible their alums get together and demand continued football independence, in which case they'd either stick with the Big East or go with the potential same deal in the Big 12.  It's possible they'd want to expand their presence on the eastern seaboard, where so many of their alums live, and associate with us hoity-toity academic types.  I have no idea.  But one thing is for sure: it would be an absolute coup if the conference were to lock down Notre Dame.  The crotchety old man in me would like to remind everyone that Indiana is like four big states away from the Atlantic coast, but I'd also like to think I'm pretty pragmatic, and this brave new world of expansion is breaking down my resistance barriers.  In other words, whether I like it or not we're not getting back the old ACC, so we might as well go big.


Academics: 7
Football: 5 (0) (2010 - 7)
Basketball: 3 (0)
Quasi-rev: 3 (0)
Non-rev: 3 (0) (2010 - 6)
Cachet: 5 (0)
Size: 10
Geography: 8
Intangibles: Biggest misconception in the whole realignment business is that you can add Rutgers "and get the NYC market."  No you can't.  Nobody cares.

Totals: 44 unadjusted, 25 unadjusted

Rutgers is some seriously low-hanging fruit.  If the ACC called up UConn and Rutgers tonight and said, hey, party at our place, they'd be over in no time flat.  The problem for Rutgers is that the only thing they bring to the table is the non-sports-related stuff - OK academics, big alumni base (that doesn't care), correct geography.  They had a solid football season this year, but I dropped them below the cutoff because in 2010 they had a very Rutgersesque year and now the only coach that ever won anything there is in the NFL.  Their hoops and lax teams would get slaughtered in the ACC.  About the only reason I'd want to take Rutgers is if we also took UConn and couldn't get Notre Dame, just so we would own the entire coast.  If Rutgers was the 16th team after Notre Dame was the 15th, I'd ask why we didn't go for UConn instead.  Or even Louisville.

South Florida

Academics: 4 (0)
Football: 6 (2010 - 7)
Basketball: 4 (0) (2010 - 5)
Quasi-rev: 5 (0) (2010 -6)
Non-rev: 5 (0)
Cachet: 3 (0)
Size: 9
Geography: 6
Intangibles: none

Totals: 42 unadjusted, 21 adjusted

Not on the ACC's radar screen.  Another Rutgers that doesn't bring anything, except with worse academics and less geographically smart.  Besides, you know how people don't like VT in the ACC because it took away our biggest recruiting advantage over our instate neighbors?  The Florida schools probably feel the same about these guys, especially since they like to trumpet themselves as the new big boys in town.  Bet you anything any time USF is brought up at ACC discussions, FSU shoots it down ten seconds later.


Academics: 4 (0)
Football: 6 (2010 - 5)
Basketball: 8
Quasi-rev: 1 (0)
Non-rev: 2 (0) (2010 - 4)
Cachet: 5 (0)
Size: 8
Geography: 8
Intangibles: Moving back up in the world after a pretty rotten '00s.
Totals: 42 unadjusted, 30 adjusted

Temple was invited back to the Big East after that conference unceremoniously booted them for sucking.  Hilarious, or really hilarious?  Of all the reasons to no longer take the Big East seriously, this is #1.  Temple gets a boost in football from last time even though Al Golden is gone, because they've been pretty good (for Temple) for a while, can probably continue that success in the Big East, and if they made it to the ACC, would be able to recruit on it and thus quite possibly never return to the hideously Templeriffic days of yore, such as when UVA visited Philadelphia to play the Owls and some rascally students who'd made the trip painted SCRIMMAGE on their chests.  Still, even with all that, this is not a good idea if there are other options.  Having them around in basketball would be fun, but they bring zero else outside the two main sports.


Academics: 8
Football: 1 (0)
Basketball: 8
Quasi-rev: 5 (0)
Non-rev: 4 (0)
Cachet: 5 (0)
Size: 4
Geography: 8
Intangibles: none

Totals: 43 unadjusted, 28 adjusted

Nova hasn't exactly made the jump to the highest level of football yet, so this is a little presumptuous.  Assuming they do, their academic and basketball prowess would make them a natural fit in the ACC.  But they'd really, really suck at football for a while; again, you don't just make the jump from I-AA to the BCS.  And other than a decent lacrosse team and some really good track and cross country folks (which really are the same team) they don't bring much else in the way of sports.  You can see why this name gets mentioned.  Even without a proper football team they'll end up higher than Rutgers on the list.  But not high enough - you really gotta be in the 40s, adjusted, before I even start to think it's a good idea.


As before, here's the chart, with a fairly obvious result:

This serves to illustrate less who I think is a desirable choice, because that should've become obvious by now (if it wasn't to begin with) and more to show that I think there really aren't that many of them.  Because I'm prone to skewing the desirability of geography in my head, Rutgers wouldn't be that far down the list if it were up to me, but this is supposed to be at least semi-objective.  And semi-objectively speaking, to be honest what this chart shows is that it's Notre Dame or bust.  Everyone else would be subtraction by addition, and only start to look good if for some reason someone leaves the conference.  You take Notre Dame if you can get 'em, add UConn for balance, and let it go at that. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

weekend review

Confession: I didn't actually watch one single pitch of the baseball this weekend.  Kind of stupid really, since I shelled out the money for the live video I ought to be taking advantage of it, but other stuff got in the way.  I will say this: the most encouraging development of the weekend is Scott Silverstein getting back on track by throwing four innings and allowing zero free trips to first base.  And against a good lineup, too.  Without Whit Mayberry I have no idea who'll be our fourth pitcher in the postseason - Shane Halley, maybe, or Johnny Wholestaff - but we're certainly going nowhere with just two.

So one of those things that got in the way was obviously the lacrosse game, which I wasn't gonna miss for the world.  I'd say it lived up to expectations.  I don't care if the two teams combined for only 11 goals, it was one of the better games I've seen this year because both defenses were at the very tops of their games.  Everyone loves watching offensive explosions, but a really good defensive battle is also to be appreciated, and that's what we saw.

First you have to tip your hat to Princeton's goalie, Tyler Fiorito, without whom the game wouldn't have been close.  I wasn't disappointed in the offensive effort despite only producing six goals - Fiorito probably robbed us of three on his own.  Also deserving a tip of the hat is their top defenseman Chad Wiedmaier, who basically shut down Steele Stanwick for large stretches of the game.  And no, that wasn't Wiedmaier who leapt futilely into the air trying to stop Chris LaPierre's end-of-half pass to Stanwick for the miracle goal.  I don't know who that was, but Wiedmaier was the guy conspicuously slamming his stick to the ground in anger.  I like making the other team do that.

Speaking of LaPierre, is there any other choice for player of the game?  Besides that unbelievable pass, which was nine-tenths hork-and-pray but still, you've got to appreciate the shot block.  Yeah, you know what I mean.  The only time this year I've seen someone hit that hard by a lacrosse ball was the time an Ohio State attacker got beaned by his own teammate's shot against Michigan.  (It was funny later because he was OK, but he went down like a bag of bricks.  At least Shocker meant to do that.)  I wonder how many different colors LaPierre's chest is today.

I'd be remiss also if I didn't mention Matt Lovejoy, who played maybe the best game of his career.  Not even kidding, and not even just because he got the first point of his college life.  The whole defense was simply excellent - best game of the season - and Lovejoy clearly led the way.

That game was a great experience for getting ready for our next opponent: Notre Dame.  The best defense in the country, but not an explosive offense.  If you're gonna play the Irish it's a good idea to get used to the idea that five or six goals might be enough, but you'll have a hell of a time just getting to that point.  And I'll tell you what else that game was good for: ammo against anyone who wants a shot clock in lacrosse, which I absolutely don't.  Look at me like I'm crazy all you want, because I'm well aware that both teams earned stall warnings on their first possession.  But the rest of the game, the stalling was not excessive, and the defense was of the tough, physical, and very entertaining sort that would largely disappear if all the defense had to do was wait 45 or 60 seconds to get the ball back.  That kind of tight, well-played matchup isn't going to show its face if we have ourselves a shot clock era next season.

One final thumbs-up: the jerseys.  I like orange numbers and lettering better than blue, but I never did like the stripe across the front of the shoulders.  If this is the look for the next couple years (the way the shoulder-stripes were also introduced in the tournament) then I'm a fan.  We'll be the lower-seeded team next-weekend (and thus in colored jerseys) and I hope and expect to see an equally sharp-looking blue or orange version.


-- So the other big news of the weekend was Florida State's temper tantrum about media money, third-tier rights, and leaving the ACC for the Big 12 and so on.

My first thought is, what the hell is your damn problem?  We footballized the conference to try and help boost your profile.  We extended a middle finger to traditionalists in order to do so.  We bent over backwards to accommodate your wishes during our first round of expansion, put Miami in the other division so you could play them in the ACC CG (which you've never done), put the ACC CG in the state of Florida so it'd be nice and convenient for your fans to get there, and embarrassed ourselves by playing the game in front of a totally empty stadium as a result.  You repaid us with academic cheating scandals and mediocre-ass football, and now by whining like Texas about third-tier media rights.  You want to be treated like kings in football, start by beating Wake Forest and Virginia.

Naturally, the Big 12 is where they'd want to go if they want to control their third-tier rights.  Texas made a giant stink about them, drove off the desirable parts of their conference, and turned to the rest of the Big 12 and said "now gimme my Longhorn Network."  The remainder of the conference said, "that would be fine, and would you like us to suck your dick too?"  Now Florida State apparently wants the same treatment.

Fortunately, there are calming voices in the wilderness.  Because despite a few harsh words I might have just said about Florida State, the ACC is not better off if they leave.  Frank the Tank is a guy who's always had a level head about realignment issues, and here's his take on the situation.  An excerpt:
ESPN has zero incentive to see the ACC get raided. None. Nada. Unlike its contracts with every other power conference, ESPN has complete top-to-bottom control of all ACC TV rights. This means that ESPN has more of a vested interest in the survival of the ACC specifically over every other conference – it’s the one league that the people in Bristol aren’t sharing with Fox, CBS or the Big Ten Network. In fact, think of it in these terms:
The ACC is the single largest content provider to all of the ESPN networks, whether college or pro.
Emphasis his. Remember who writes the checks, now.

This next is even better.  It's a very, very enlightening look at the reality of the situation and highly recommended.  The money shot:

I’ll bottom line this for those of you who think FSU should dump the ACC for the Big 12 because the Big 12 would allow the Noles to reap huge profits from their third-tier rights. If FSU left the ACC for the Big 12 the only additional athletic inventory it would have to offer a TV network is its worst football game and three or four additional men’s basketball games. How much money do you think the Seminoles stand to gain from the ability to sell their football game vs. Savannah State and men’s basketball games against Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Georgia Southwestern, Jacksonville, and UNC-Greensboro?  How many of those games would FSU have to sell before unburying itself from the ACC’s $20 million exit fee?

The rest of the article comes highly recommended at least by this intrepid blogger.

So my semi-educated guess is that FSU, or at least their board of trustees, is all bluster.  I don't think they'll go anywhere.  I could be wrong, of course.  I could be overestimating the intelligence of their brain trust.  But if they're really serious about the Big 12, someone should set them up a meeting with the presidents and ADs at Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, and Texas A&M, so as to get a few pointers on working with Texas.

-- Schedule news today: the football "future schedules" page on the official site now lists a home-and-home in 2017 and 2018 with Stanford.  Damn if that ain't a long way off.  I'd still rather put some Big Ten or SEC teams on the schedule - we seem to be going Pac-wacky with USC, and now future dates with UCLA and Stanford - but I'm not gonna complain about a home-and-home with quality opponents regardless of where they're located.

Also, next year's Big Ten basketball opponent for the Challenge is out, and it's Wisconsin.  Cue up the jokes about the score being 38-35.  Add that to our gig in the preseason NIT and the picture of our hoops schedule is starting to come together.

-- When it comes to baseball recruiting, every time you get a good one you have to sweat it out until the MLB signing deadline in August to see if you'll actually get to keep your new toys.  Sometimes they stay (Branden Kline, Danny Hultzen, Derek Fisher), sometimes they go (Justin Nicolino.)  So we greatly appreciate the gem of this year's class saving us the heart attacks; top pitcher Nathan Kirby, who could've been a first-rounder, decided to not even go through the medical requirements.  It would've been a little better if he'd phrased it in a way that didn't sound like he was purposely failing a drug test, but we know what he means.  Kirby could very well be the best player entering college ball in the whole country next year.  So if this year is our reloading year, next year is the one where we just grab a bigger gun.